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i. BUCK. 

i, 25 CENTS. 

/ - 




C. A. BUCK. 

JANUARY, 1902. 


C. A. Buck of Toronto, Kansas is the 


author of this interesting and comprehen- 
sive biography of Paul Morphy. 

Mr. Buck has gathered from authentic 
sources facts and data in the later life of 
Morphy that have never been published. 
Several years were devoted to securing in- 
formation; a month was then spent in New 
Orleans verifying and adding to his store of 
facts; Morphy's relatives and friends giv- 
ing him great assistance. The matter first 
appeared in a prominent Western news- 
paper. With Mr. Buck's consent, I now 
offer it in its present form. I have added 
a portrait of Mr. Morphy from a photo- 
graph taken immediately after his return 
from Europe, also his autograph. 



The chronicles of Chess, amplified as it is 
by a literature richer than that of any other 
game, offer to the student nothing to com- 
pare with the career of Paul Morphy, the 
game's greatest master. A number of cir- 
cumstances conspire to make Paul Morphy 
an unique and monumental character in 
chess history. The two salient factors of 
his fame were, of course, his wonderful 
chess play and of his extreme youth during 
the period of his active chess career. Inci- 
dentally, the fact that he was the only 
master of the first class that America had 
produced up to his time augmented his 
prestige; and then, too, his personality, 
marked as it was by many graces of the 
mind, added lustre to his fame. His later life, 
during which he met with many disappoint- 
ments and reverses, finally resulting in a 
mild form of mania, adds a melancholy in- 


terest to his career. It was such a contrast 
to what his j'outh gave promise of that it 
seems almost tragic in its aspects. 

It is curious to note that while the name 
of Paul Morphy is known wherever chess is 
played, and most every practitioner of the 
game is familiar with his chess, yet there 
are few players of to-day who know of his 
later life, dating from his return from Europe 
in 1859. A sketch of Morphy's later life, 
however brief and fragmentary, should pro- 
perly be prefaced by a review of his chess 
career, not only in the interest of a har- 
monious whole, but that the reader may 
have a better understanding of some phases 
of his character that developed with the 
maturity of years. 

Paul Morphy was born in New Orleans, 
June 22, 1837. He learned chess at the age 
of ten, graduated at Spring Hill college, near 
Mobile, Ala., in 1854, studied law and was 
admitted to the bar in April, 1857. He was 
gifted with a wonderful mind, its precocious 


powers being revealed not only in chess but 
in his studies as well. It should be noticed 
that before he was twenty years old he had 
graduated at college and at a law school, 
his learning embracing fluency in four lan- 
guages and ability to recite from memory 
nearly the entire Civil Code of Louisiana. 

Morphy's chess practice during his child- 
hood was mainly with his father and his 
uncle, Ernest Morphy. He gave evidence 
of a keen aptitude for the game and was 
soon able to defeat them both, although his 
uncle especially was a strong player. His 
natural capacity for chess was shown in his. 
seeming divination of the proper moves in 
the openings before he had ever studied them. 
Ernest Morphy wrote to Kieseritzky in 
October, 1849, that his nephew, then a little 
over twelve years old, had never opened a 
chess treatise but that "in the openings he 
plays the 'coups justes' asif by inspiration." 
As a matter of fact, Morphy did not at any 
time have the benefit of chess books in the 


sense of keeping a number of them at hand 
for study and reference. What few books 
he made use of he went through quickly as 
possible, and after having mastered the con- 
tents he gave them away. James McCon- 
nel, the elder, of New Orleans, has a book 
of the tournrment of 1851 which Morphy 
gave him when fifteen years old. The book 
had been issued but a short time when 
Morphy secured this copy. He soon played 
over all the games and then gave it to his 
friend. The volume is especially interesting 
on account of numerous marginal notes in 
Moprhy's own handwriting by which he 
expressed his opinion of the games and cer- 
tain moves. As is well known, this book 
was edited by Staunton, and young Morphy, 
like a child of genius, made a captious com- 
ment on Staunton' s chess play by writing 
on the title page to make the authorship 
read like this: "By H. Staunton, Esq., 
author of the Hand-book of Chess, Chess- 


Player's Companion, etc. (and some devilish 
bad games)." 

Paul Morphy first showed the genius of a 
coming master in the three games he played 
with L,owenthal, the distinguished Hunga- 
rian player, in May, 1850, when he was not 
quite thirteen years old. Of these games he 
won two and drew the other. His encount- 
ers, about this time, with Eugene Rousseau, 
a native of France but then a resident of 
New Orleans, further showed a surpassing 
mastery of chess for a boy just entering his 
teens. Rousseau's rating as a chess player 
may be judged by the games he played with 
Kieseritzky on even terms, of which there 
were more than one hundred, the latter win- 
ning a bare majority. Morphy and Rousseau 
played over fifty games during the years 
1849 and 1850, and Morphy won nine-tenths 
of them. 

Regarding the games with Lowenthal, 
it is a curious circumstance that five years 
after Morphy 's death there appeared in the 


Chess Review of Havana an apochryphal 
game wherein Morphy accepted the odds of 
pawn and move, the claim being made that 
the game was the third one of the scries 
played with L,owenthal in 1850. The game 
had previously been submitted to no less a 
chess scholar than Max L,ange who pro- 
nounced it genuine. There were several 
things, so it was claimed, that clothed this 
bogus game with verisimilitude, chiefly the 
fact that of three games played the scores 
of only two were preserved. Fortunately, 
however for Morphy 's reputation, Charles 
A. Maurian, than whom no one is better 
qualified to pass an opinion on anything 
pertaining to Morphy, has proved that Mor- 
phy did not accept odds on that occasion. 
The claim, notwithstanding Max Lange's 
support of it, has been utterly exploded. 
From his thirteenth to his twentieth year 
Morphy was devoted to his studies, but dur- 
ing his vacations, which were spent for the 
most part at home in New Orleans, he 


played chess with the strong amateurs of 
the city and with such players of force who 
were sojourning there. Hence, when the 
first American chess congress convened in 
New York in October, 1857, n ^ s renown as 
a chess player had preceded him and he was 
the cynosure of the chess enthusiasts. He 
won the first prize in this event, and after 
the tournament he issued a challenge to play 
a match with any New Vork player and 
yield the odds of pawn and move This 
was accepted by C. H. Stanley, who was 
one of the foremost players of his time, hav- 
ing defeated Rousseau in a match by a score 
of 15 to 8 . The proposed match was for 
seven games up, but Stanley resigned after 
five games had been played, Morphy win- 
ning four and Stanley one. This challenge 
at the odds of pawn and move was also lev- 
eled at James Thompson, a player of some 
force, who participated in the main tourna- 
ment of the congress. Morphy and Thompson 
had played as many as eight games together 


on even terms, including the games in the 
tournament, and Morphy had won all of 
them, yet Thompson was not prepared to 
admit that the disparity of pawn and move 
existed between them. As Thompson would 
not accept the odds in casual play Morphy 
sought to tempt him with the odds in a 
match. Referring to this matter in a letter 
home at the time Morphy observes that "he 
seems to fancy that it is beneath his dignity 
to accept odds of a player who has won 
every game contested with him. My im- 
pression is that I can give him the odds and 
make even games." But Thompson did 
not accept the challenge. Attention is 
called to the chess vanity that prevented 
Thompson from playing Morphy and take 
the odds of pawn and move, because after 
Morphy 's return from Europe eighteen 
months later he defeated Thompson decis- 
ively at the odds of a knight ! Winning this 
match at such odds against a player of 


Thompson's ability is regarded by some as 
Morphy's greatest achievement. 

Before leaving New York Morphy amend- 
ed his challenge to the New York players 
to embrace any plaj^er in America. The 
effect of this was to offer the odds of pawn 
and move to Louis Paulsen of Iowa, the 
second prize winner of the congress a play- 
er who, like Morphy, made his first appear- 
ance before the chess world at this congress, 
and who, with Morphy eliminated, would 
have been the most conspicuous player there. 
No result came of the challenge however. 

Morphy w^ent to England in June, 1858, 
to play Staunton, the representative of Eng- 
lish chess, but failed to meet him in a match 
owing to default by Staunton. They did 
meet however, in consultation play, Mor- 
phy's ally being Thomas Wilson Barnes and 
Staunton' s confere being Rev. J. Owen 
("Alter" in chess circles). Two games 
were played, and Morphy and Barnes won 
both. Morphy played a match with L,ow- 


enthal, and won by a score of nine games to 
three, with two draws ; also a match with 
Rev. J. Owen, at odds of pawn and move, 
winning five games and losing none, with 
two draws. In France he played three 
matches, winning against Anderssen, 7 to 2, 
and two draws; against Harrwitz 5 to 2, 
and one draw; Mongredien 7 to o. While 
in Europe Morphy gave four seances in 
blindfold play, at Birmingham, at the Lon- 
don Chess club, at the St. George's Chess 
club (London), and at Paris. In each 
contest he played eight games, and made 
the unique record of losing only one game, 
although several were drawn, six by agree- 
ment. His performance at Paris, consider- 
ing the strength of his adversaries, is held 
by some critics to be the crowning achieve- 
ment in blindfold play. Morphy never 
regarded this form of chess seriously ; he 
remarked one time that "it proves nothing." 
He held to the opinion that a player's 


strength was measured by his play against 
single adversary across the board. 

After his sojourn in Paris, Morphy 
returned to London and played many 
informal games with the strongest English 
players, notably with S. S. Boden and 
Thomas Wilson Barnes. Morphy regarded 
Mr. Boden as the strongest English player. 

The consensus of opinion seems to be that 
Morphy's chief claim to preeminence in 
chess rests upon his victory over Anderssen, 
winner of the world's tournament in Lon- 
don in 1851, and admittedly the best player 
in Europe. In addition to the match games, 
Morphy and An4erssen played six informal 
games, of which the Prussian master scored 
only one. The informal and match games 
made a total of seventeen games played by 
these masters, of which Morphy won twelve, 
and Anderssen three, and two were drawn. 
Such a result was so overwhelming as to 
cause consternation in European chess cir- 
cles, and the chess writers of the time 


sought to sustain the shattered prestige of 
their master by explaining that Anderssen 
was in poor health and out of practice at 
the time. As to the question of practice, 
Anderssen himself felt that he could play 
good enough to win the match, and as to 
his health, he was well enough to travel 
from Breslau to Paris in order to play. On 
the other hand, Morphy had been ill in bed 
for several weeks before the match, was 
still confined to his bed when Anderssen 
arrived, and was unable to sit up for several 
days thereafter. His physician finally per- 
mitted him to play the match in the hotel 
and thus avoid the fatigue incident to play- 
ing in public at the Cafe de la Regence. 

It was while in Paris, during the month 
of December, 1858, that Morphy 's so-called 
aversion to chess began to manifest itself, 
and his feelings in this particular became so 
aggravated in later years as to create the 
general belief that he grew to positively dis- 
like the game. This is a mistake. His 


experience in European chess circles was a 
revelation to him. It should be remember- 
ed that he was a boy, inspired by the ardor, 
enthusiasm and high ideals of youth ; and 
loving chess as he did, he w r as shocked and 
disgusted at the sordid conventionalities of 
chess practice that was in vogue. The taint 
of professionalism was repellant to him, and 
when he saw how the game was madt- a 
business of, his disgust led him to forsake 
the haunts of chess. Morphy's idea regard- 
ing the morals of chess is not suggested for 
the purpose of making any invidious com- 
parisons, but simply to establish the fact 
that it was not chess that he grew to dislike, 
but the practice of it by those who would 
make a living by it. As Morphy was fated 
to be in a way an involuntary victim of his 
fame as a chess player, his ideas in this re- 
spect are important as explaining a peculiar 
phase of his character. 

Morphy returned to America in May, 
1859, and was greeted with all the enthu- 


siasm due a. conquering hero. In the presence 
of a vast assembly in the chapel of the 
University of New York he was presented 
with a testimonial in the shape of a mag- 
nificent set of gold and silver chess men, 
with board to match, the most costly, per- 
haps, that were ever wrought. The 
festivities of this occasion were unhapily 
marred by a dramatic episode that showed 
Morphy's growing sensitiveness to the 
' 'profession of chess. ' ' Colonel Charles D. 
Mead, president of the American Chess 
association, was chairman of the reception 
committee which greeted Morphy, and in 
his address of welcome he made an allusion 
to chess as a profession, and referred to 
Morphy as its most brilliant exponent. 
Morphy took exception to being character- 
ized as a professional player, even by 
implication, and he resented it in such a 
way as to overwhelm Colonel Mead with 
confusion. Such was his mortification at 
this untoward event that Colonel Mead 


withdrew from farther participation in the 
Morphy demonstration. The Union Chess 
club of New York presented Morphy with 
a superb sterling silver wreath as a token 
of victory over all. In Boston, also, Mor- 
phy was given a banquet, at which 
Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, Agassiz and 
many others eminent citizens were present 
to tender him their congratulations. 

So great an interest did Morphy 's 
achievements create in chess in this country 
that Robert Bonner, the enterprising pub- 
lisher of the New York Ledger, started a 
chess column in his paper, and secured for 
it at once widespread popularity by engag- 
ing Morphy as chess editor at a salary of 
$3.000 a year, paid in advance. The feature 
of the Ledger column was the publication 
of about fifteen of the games between De La 
Bourdonnais and MacDonnell, annotated by 
Morphy. Morphy intended to publish all 
the games between these two masters, as he 
considered them the finest specimens of 


chess on record. 

.Shortly after reaching New Orleans 
Murphy issued a final challenge, offering to 
give the odds of pawn and move to any 
player in the world, and receiving no re- 
sponse thereto he declared his career as a 
chess player finally and definitely closed, a 
declaration to which he held with unbrok- 
en resolution during the whole remainder 
of his life. 

Morphy made arrangements to practice 
law soon after his return to his native city, 
but his fame as a chess player was so over- 
shadowing that it seemed people were 
disinclined to regard him seriously in any 
other capacity. His fellow citizens looked 
upon him simply as a marvelous chess 
player and nothing more, and this so irritated 
him that he began to have an aversion to 
playing the game even privately. In fact, 
he became so morbid on the effect of chess 
on his career as a lawyer that, in spite of 
all the efforts of his friends and relatives, 


he gave up the work of chess editor of the 
Ledger, and the contract for which he had 
been engaged was completed by W. J. A. 
Fuller. Morphy was associated with D. W. 
Fiske in the publication of the American 
Chess Monthly, and although his name was 
carried on the publication as one of its 
editors during the five years of its exist- 
ence (1857-1861) it is known that lie 
did very little of the work. 

An incident may here be related as show- 
ing how Morphy was often crucified on the 
cross of his fame. He became enamored of 
a wealthy and handsome young lady in 
New Orleans and informed a mutual friend 
of the fact, who broached the subject to the 
lady, but she scorned the idea of marrying 
a ' 'mere chess player. ' ' Small wonder that 
he became morbid and abjured the practice 
of chess. 

During the year 1861 Morphj- visited 
Richmond, Va., seeking to obtain an ap- 
pointment in the diplomatic service of the 


southern confederacy, but he did not suc- 
ceed and returned to New Orleans. He 
was there when the city was captured by 
the federal forces. In October, 1862, he 
went to Havana in a Spanish man-of-war, 
the Blasco de Garay, and after remaining 
there a few weeks he sailed for Cadiz. From 
there he went to Paris by rail, where he re- 
mained until the spring of 1865, when he 
returned to New Orleans. In 1867 he again 
went to Paris and remained about eighteen 

During the ten years following his return 
from Europe in 1859 Morphy's practice of 
chess was limited to casual games with in- 
timate friends, chiefly with Charles A. 
Marian of New Orleans and Arnous de 
Riviere of Paris. It is thought the total 
number of games played during these ten 
years would not exceed 75. The complete- 
ness of his abandonment of the game may 
be inferred from the fact that although the 
great International Chess Tournament of 


1867 was going on in Paris during his third 
visit to that city he never once visited the 
scene of its exciting and splendid contests. 
Morphy played absolutely no chess with 
anybody after the year 1869. 

The mental derangement which over- 
whelmed Morphy 's brilliant mind and 
clouded his later life is a curious chapter 
in his career, and has given rise to no little 
wonder among chess players as to the cause 
and conditions of his mania. Without go- 
ing into the details of his mental troubles, 
two conclusions stand out very clearly, 
namely, that chess in no way contributed 
to it, and that the reverses he experienced 
in his material affairs did. The latter con- 
clusion is borne out by the fact that his 
mania took the form of a delusion that his 
brother-in-law, Sybrant by name, adminis- 
trator of his father's estate, had defrauded 
him of his legacy. So intensively did this 
delusion dominate him that his perverted 
mind conjured up machinations on the part 


of Sybrant to poison him in order to quiet 
his proposed action at law to recover. Mor- 
phy was perpetually in fear of being 
poisoned, and as a precaution would eat 
nothing except at the hands of his mother 
or his unmarried sister, Helena. This pro- 
posed action against his brother-in-law 
absorbed Morphy's attention for many 
years; being a lawyer himself he busied 
himself with the details of his suit, and was 
much about the law courts in consequence. 
It should be stated, however, that Mr. 
Sybrant discharged the obligations of the 
trust entirely to the satisfaction of the court, 
which is a matter of record. 

It is difficult to fix the time when Mor- 
phy's mind was noticeable unbalanced. 
When the second American chess congress 
was held in Cleveland in 1871 strenuous 
efforts were made to secure Morphy's 
attendance, but he persistently declined all 
invitations that were urged upon him. 
Rumors of his malady were abroad then ; 


some people who were in a position to know 
aver that his mania was perceptible even 
before that date. Morphy was never legally 
declared insane; he was so harmless and reti- 
cent, and lived in such quite retirement at 
his home, that there was no need of putting 
him under any restraint. In June, 1882, 
his family did endeavor to place him in a 
sanitarium in the hope that he would be 
benefited. The institution was called the 
Louisiana Retreat, located near New Or- 
leans, and under the patronage of the Cath- 
olic church. Those in the party that 
accompanied Morphy were his mother his 
brother Ed\vard, and his intimate friend 
C. A. Maurian. When they reached the 
asylum Morphy protested against his deten- 
tion with such evident sanity, and discussed 
his civil rights with such a learned knowl- 
edge of the law, that the Sisters in charge 
were afraid to assume the responsibility, and 
he was taken back home. 

During all these years of misfortune 


Morphy still loved chess, and kept run of 
the current news of the game down to his 
death. But he was annoyed, and at times 
even enraged, at the mention of it. This 
may seem rather contradictory but it should 
be remembered that his experience and 
environments were peculiar. It may be 
worth while to relate an episode that dis- 
closes Morphy 's feelings regarding chess 
better than anything else. Under the 
pretense of assisting him with his suit 
against his brother-in-law, a lawyer of New 
Orleans examined the papers in the case and 
gave his opinion in Morphy 's favor. He 
gained confidence to such an extent that 
Morphy ate a piece of rock candy, first 
seeing that the lawyer himself had eaten a 
piece. The lawyer then suggested that he 
would like, at some convenient time, to play 
a game of chess with him. Morphy seemed 
alarmed; made sure that no one was in 
hearing, and then replied : "I dearly love 


chess, but not now, not now when we win 
the case." 

When Steinitz was in New Orleans in 
1883 he persistently tried to see Morphy, 
and Morphy persistently avoided him. 
After four failures to effect an interview 
between these two celebrated chess pla\ r ers, 
friends of Morphy finally secured the prom- 
ise to meet Steinitz on condition that chess 
would not even be alluded to. This condi- 
tion was adhered to, and the interview 
lasted about ten minuses, but was mutually 
embarrassing on account of the forbidden 
subject. When Morphy was first approach- 
ed by a friend in regard to meeting Steinitz, 
the remark was made that "Steinitz is in 
the city," to see what effect it would have 
on Morphy. He replied: "I know it," and 
after a pause he continued. "His gambit 
is not good." There is a world of meaning 
in these words to one who is familiar with 
all the particulars to which the words may 
apply. Morphy was then asked if he kept 


a board and men at hand to play over games, 
and he admitted lie did, but he could not be 
induced to talk further on the subject of 

It is said by those most qualified to speak 
that Morphy's mutual derangement did not 
impair his chess powers in the least; that at 
any time during his later years he could 
have played with all his pristine brillianc} r 
and accuracy. 

When Dr. Zukertort was in New Orleans 
in 1882 he met Morphy on Canal street and 
handed him his card. Morphy put the 
card in his pocket without looking at it and 
then greeted the doctor by name speaking 
in French. Zukertort was amazed, and 
exclaimed: "Why, how 7 is it you know my 
name without looking at my card ? And 
how did you know I speak French? "Morphy 
satisfied his curiosity by remarking: "I met 
you in Paris in 1867, and you spoke French 
then. ' ' 

Paul Morphy died suddenly at his home 


in New Orleans July, 10 1884. He had 
indulged in a long walk during the heat of 
the day, and on his return home went to 
the bath room to bathe. It is supposed the 
shock of the cold water on his overheated 
body caused congestion of the brain, for he 
was found dead in the bath tub shortly 

After his death his trophies were sold at 
auction. The silver service, consisting of 
a pitcher, four goblets and a salver, being 
the first prize won at the chess congress, 
was bought for $400 by Mr. Samory at New 
Orleans; the set of gold and silver chessmen 
was taken by Walter Denegre, acting for 
the Manhattan Chess club of New York, 
price $1,550; and the silver wreath sold for 
$250, also bought by Mr. Samory. 

An engaging pastime of chess writers and 
critics of late years has been that of com- 
paring the latter-day masters with Morphy, 
but so far the most flattering comparisons 
have never exceeded that of equality with 


the immortal Morphy. None have claimed 
that he has been surpassed by his success- 
ors. It is safe to venture the opinion, 
however, that a great majority of chess 
players award Morphy the palm of superior- 
ity over players of all times. Certainly, 
taking into consideration the fact that he 
was in no sense a chess student, that he re- 
garded the game solely as a pastime and 
himself as an amateur; not forgetting his 
extreme youth when he achieved his won- 
derful victories, nor the fact that his chess 
career covered a period of less than two 
years remembering all these facts in addi- 
tion to his sublime chess play and then 
comparing him with the seasoned veterans 
of the checkered field, who have devoted 
years to the analysis and practice of the 
game, it would not seem beyond the 
bounds of moderation and reason to regard 
Paul Morphy as the greatest chess player 
that ever lived.